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McQueen's legacy in doubt as €36m debts uncovered

His dramatic creations dazzled the catwalks for a decade, but the legacy of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen could be decided on the basis of a balance sheet.

An indication of the future of his fashion label will be given this morning -- a week after the designer's apparent suicide -- by the French luxury group that controls his name.

McQueen's eponymous brand struggled to make a profit and had millions of pounds of liabilities at the time of his death.

Analysis of the most recent accounts of McQueen's British companies show that their current liabilities totalled more than £32m (€36m). Although founded in 2001, the brand did not break even until 2007 and made a relatively small profit in 2008, before the world banking crisis that hit many high-end fashion companies.

A court was told yesterday that the designer was found hanged in a wardrobe at his apartment in Mayfair, Central London, the day before his mother's funeral. A handwritten note was found nearby.

McQueen had discussed his legacy shortly before his death, saying: "I'm 40 now. When I'm dead, hopefully this house will still be going."

His fashions were worn by a range of celebrities, from Cameron Diaz to Lady Gaga, and he was credited with influencing a generation of designers.

Sales of his clothes and accessories are reported to have surged in the past week.

A decision on the future of the label will be taken by the French group PPR, which controls McQueen's companies through its Gucci subsidiary.

Francois-Henri Pinault, the PPR chairman and chief executive, will give an indication of its plans when he unveils his company's financial results this morning. Last week he praised the designer as a genius and described him as "one of the greatest designers of his generation".

McQueen was close to finalising his autumn/winter collection at the time of his death and it was expected last night that Mr Pinault would announce that the Paris show would go ahead as planned on March 9.

There was less certainty over the long-term future of McQueen's companies, which employ 180 people at various locations including a headquarters in Clerkenwell, Central London, and 11 boutiques from New York to Milan.

Alexander McQueen became part of Gucci in 2001 and the company controls 51pc of the brand, with the remainder now owned by the designer's estate. PPR said that it would not give detailed figures of its individual labels, which includes McQueen and the British designer Stella McCartney.

A report by the company's directors says that the accounts do not include "substantial wholesale activities" outside the United States, or its overseas branches. It emphasises that the figures "do not reflect the worldwide financial overview of the Alexander McQueen business and should not be interpreted as such".

Death is not necessarily the end of a fashion brand: Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were all able to carry on without their founder, with varying degrees of success.

hnews@herald.ie


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